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Archive for February, 2019

Last Friday, we met some friends to tour an installation of light art at Villa Montalvo, a wonderful, non-profit center for the arts in Saratoga, California. The artist is Bruce Munro, known for large-scale light-based artworks. The result is a number of exhibits strewn about the copious grounds of Montalvo. We selected an evening well before we knew what weather we would be getting. What we got was one very cold, clear night.

We began the evening at Chris’ home, a good friend of Mary and Ricks. We also met Larry, a very friendly standard poodle with the softest fur. Chris served Drunken Beans (Frijoles Borrachos), a warm, hearty dish to prepare us for our hours in the cold.

Visitors cannot drive into Montalvo, so we parked at a college parking lot and caught a bus along with many other people. All of us were dressed for the experience – wool caps, heavy jackets, gloves. I decided to bring my new camera and new tripod, hoping I would be able to make things work in the dark. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t.

Montalvo is a large place. We got off the bus a distance away from the mansion and wandered down a path. What did we see? A large number of clotheslines with many clothespins lit with ultraviolet light. The clothespins represent cockatoos he experienced in Australia and the exhibit had a raucous soundtrack of excited cockatoos.

We moved on to a structure in Montalvo’s Italianate Garden.

Our friends moved on while I tried to photograph the night sky, crystal clear and full of stars. It did not work out so well. But a huge grassy field leading up to the mansion was filled by a “Silver Sea”. Spectacular! Bruce Munro said many of his works for Montalvo were inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia, a series of fantasy stories by C.S. Lewis.

There were some digital animated projections on the floor of the mansion’s veranda. A couple of young girls decided to become part of the show.

We moved on and came upon the most spectacular display. Named “Reepicheep’s Wave” it involves 18.000 vacuum-cast partially-recycled plastic mussel shells clipped onto over 1,200 fibers to create the silhouette of a wave. The work is accompanied by a soundscape based upon a Shepard tone which is an auditory illusion that seems to be continually increasing in pitch, but never moves beyond a limited set of tones. Neither we nor anyone around us could focus on the tones long enough to hear when they stopped ascending and reset.

Just down the path, a field of 1,000 occasionally-pink flamingoes greeted us. Spotlights slowly changed the colors on the dramatic birds.

By this time, we were very cold. There were a few more artworks to be seen but nothing quite so dramatic. We got in line to catch the next bus taking us back to the car and its heater. Then we drove back to Chris’ house for some hot drinks and a blueberry coffee cake baked by Mary. Larry was happy to see us.

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